Doorstop, Parliament House Canberra

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

Media contact

02 6277 7800

Release content

29 February 2024

SUBJECTS: Bigger tax cuts for more Australians; ASIO Threat Assessment; Red Sea. 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Well it’s great to be here in a week where this Parliament has passed tax cuts, which we'll see 13.6 million Australians receive a tax cut. 84% of taxpayers better off, taking home more of what they earn than what would have happened under the Morison tax plan. And this is further action on the part of the Albanese Government about dealing with the cost of living pressures. What Australians know is that in this government, they have a government which is entirely focused on the family budget, and on making sure that Australians are able to take home more of what they earn. And when you combine this with the starting of real wage growth, what you see is a government which is completely focused on the family budget. 

JOURNALIST: Joe Hockey said this morning, this former politician who betrayed the country should be named, that they shouldn't be able to still represent their communities and quote ‘ride off into the sunset’. Should they be named? Will they be named?

MARLES: Look, I respect what ASIO have done here in terms of putting this story into the public domain, but also maintaining the confidentiality of the facts around this, and there could be a whole lot of reasons why that should happen. I think what's important here to understand is, firstly, that there is a threat of foreign espionage in this country, that those of us who are involved in public administration, including politicians, obviously, need to be completely vigilant about that and need to be utterly focused on the idea that what we are doing is serving the Australian people and that there will be people who seek to influence us, not in respect of Australia's national interests, but in the interests of other countries. But the other point to understand is that we have amongst the best agencies in the world protecting Australians and Australians should have a sense of confidence about that. This is what ASIO is doing in respect of handling this particular case. 

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that sending more troops to the Middle East could escalate that terror threat ASIO has warned about?

MARLES: No, it is important that we are acting in our national interest, and our national interest as a trading island nation is on maintaining the rules-based order and that's particularly freedom of navigation at sea. What we're seeing in the Red Sea is a disruption of that by the Houthi rebels. It's important that we are making our contribution to that effort. So the additional six people that we will be sending to the headquarters which are supporting the US and the UK strikes is a very important contribution that Australia can make in assisting that effort.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that Defence staff and contractors aren't taking the risk of foreign interference seriously enough?

MARLES: Well, I think people do take the risk very seriously. And it's certainly important that those engaged in Defence and the Department of Defence, and those contracting with Defence do that. But I believe they are doing that. I mean, clearly Defence is a target– an obvious target for foreign espionage and therefore it matters that we have the highest levels of security that we do. But it is also really important– why this scenario has been put into the public domain by the Director General of ASIO, we cannot be too vigilant in the way in which we go about our work and it is a very timely reminder of what's at stake. 

JOURNALIST: Will this former politician face any consequences? And can you guarantee that this situation will never happen again?

MARLES: I mean, what I can guarantee is that we've got among the best agencies in the world dealing with this. Again, the specific facts which underline this scenario, for good reason, are not in the public domain. And so, I can't answer the questions that you've asked for that reason. But it is really important that people understand this threat exists. That people are alive to it, certainly politicians, but everyone engaged in public administration, but also to take a sense of confidence that we've got an organisation like ASIO, which is doing a great job of keeping us safe. 

JOURNALIST: What about the former prime minister? Can you name them – who was being targeted? 

MARLES: Well again, I don't know the facts which underpin the scenario that Mike Burgess has outlined. And I think for good reason, those facts are being kept confidential. It's important to understand the threat and that we are aware of it and that we are vigilant about it. 

JOURNALIST: Do you need to do more to train public servants to be aware of these risks, if stuff is still leaking?

MARLES: Look, an awful lot of effort goes into briefing and training public servants around this threat and there are enormous amounts of efforts which go into securing our nation's secrets. And our record in relation to that as a country is actually very strong. So I have a sense of confidence about the security of the system which is around us. But part of maintaining that security is to have an ever watchful eye on what the threat is. That's why we do this public national assessment from ASIO. And that's why it's really important that this scenario has been put into the public domain. 


Other related releases